The advantages of brain injury (Say what?)

Since my fate seems to be living with some fairly serious brain problems, I have been searching lately for the bright side of this apparently grim future I face. Some might find this attitude pathologically optimistic, but what the heck! If you can’t change it, why not go in search of the bright side?

First of all, I feel so just plain lucky to be living in this beautiful place with my loving little family, who understand endlessly my occasional forgetfulness, confusion and regular fatigue. My pup Rasta is especially sympathetic as he’s pushing 13 himself and can’t hear, can barely see or smell. He spends most of his days either sleeping or looking for a warm lap.

I have always run my mind a hundred miles an hour as a general rule, but not now. I tend to get busy early in the morning and wear out around ten or eleven. Then, for a change, I can be patient with myself… sometimes. I can settle down and meditate restfully for a while because I really cannot do anything else. I can now shut off my mind easier and just cruise mentally. I’m slowly learning my limits and now I try to only focus on one thing at a time.

Only so much brain space means less worrying and a lot less fear of death. Why? Because I have experienced hours of unconsciousness at this point and it isn’t such a bad thing. My mind simply shuts down with too much stimulation, and that limit is easy to reach. I have always enjoyed one-on-one conversations in my past, now that’s about all I can tolerate or enjoy. I enjoy focusing fully on others, just for shorter periods of time. After a nice talk with a friend, I love spacing out alone and contemplating our conversation. In fact I enjoy contemplating everything more.

I notice some of my senses are now heightened. My love of music, colors, and tastes are much more intense. I guess this is a function of where my head injuries were. Mine have been equal opportunity injuries both on the back and the sides of my brain.

Again I come back to one of my favorite quotes about the changes we may go through as we age:

“…we all know how this ends, so rushing through life is senseless. As our inner life grows ever more luminous, the chatter of the speed-and-greed world slowly fades, leaving us with greater peace, tranquility, quiet and contentment.” — Arthur Rosenfeld

What does a brain injury feel like?

In my last post I spoke of “enforced introspection.” Because of a few health concerns in the past few years, I have been living in a type of enforced introspection. I was reminded of this situation on Thursday with another accident and rude awakening. I went too long without my oxygen tube and passed out on the floor. This has happened a few times in the past few years.

What happens is not completely known to me, because I don’t remember anything when I regain consciousness. When I gathered my wits about me, I called for Mike, but he had just left for a while. I struggled to my feet eventually and got my oxygen. Wow, what a big bump I had on the back of my head! That’s the best indication I have of how hard I fell.

My health situation is complicated because I know the problem isn’t just an oxygen deficit. The combination of low oxygen and previous brain injuries, especially a traumatic brain injury in 2008 (brain bleed) make my consciousness level less dependable than what most others experience. This is my first life experience with a disability, and I would say I am not adjusting well. My but I can be so stubborn. My brain is not amused.

I have always been my own brand of unique and taken some pride in that, but this is a uniqueness I could do without… I now realize that previous brain injuries (TBI) have made me much more vulnerable to future ones!

The only thing interesting about this brain deficit is observing my varied levels of consciousness. For instance, right now, as I write this, I notice that the spelling part of my brain is not happy. I forget how to spell some of the simplest words, but as I keep trying, they come more easily. It all leaves me in a bit of a dream world, but in a good way. It doesn’t freak me out, because unconsciousness is not scary to me until I wake up and wonder what the hell happened?

I called my brother to tell him about my fall and he said, “What can you do about this?” As far as I can tell there is nothing to do except be sure to stay on oxygen all the time, but my spaced-out nature makes that more challenging than it sounds.

Stop trying? I’ll keep fighting until I can’t fight anymore!

Allowing your mind to lie fallow…

Fallow: —adj, 1. (of land) left unseeded after being plowed and harrowed to regain fertility for a crop.       2. (of an idea, state of mind, etc) undeveloped or inactive, but potentially useful.

I got excited yesterday when I heard Meg Ryan, in her excellent interview on CBS Sunday Morning, mention the usefulness of doing nothing and allowing your mind to lie fallow for periods of time, with the purpose of generating more energy and fertility in your thought process.

I love this idea, and yet I find it to be an idea without strong acceptance in our hard-driving, demanding culture.

Because of my unfortunate recent experiences with TBI and concussion, I have had no choice but to take time to relax my brain so it can heal. But there is always a judgment from deep inside, one who feels lazy and unproductive at these times.

“Spacing out” is the best way I can think of to describe those times when my mind is simply exhausted and cannot focus on anything more. The good news?  Meditation comes so easily to me now. It’s like my mind naturally relaxes and can think of nothing for a while. And even better, some of my best ideas later come from these times of allowing my mind to lie fallow, much like some who say that humanities best ideas have emerged from periods of relaxed thought.

When we daydream, we free our thinking of logical limits to allow knowledge, experiences, and ideas to essentially float freely in our mind and mingle with each other in a way that our logical mind cannot handle.  Sometimes this undisciplined mingling creates that flash, that ‘aha’ moment.  Aristotle had his eureka moment in a bathtub and Newton had his in an apple orchard.  Where are yours?

Some call this mindfulness, others think we are really sleeping while awake. Either way, I have no choice at this point and I love the overall effects. Afterall:

 Sleep is the BEST meditation.  – Dalai Lama

I am filled with gratitude that I can now live like this forever.  Please go learn more about our move from Fort Collins to here in my new memoir!